Slim pickings for the vultures hunting culture in our fair city
JUST how cultural is Hanley's Cultural Quarter? It's a question being asked by those who believe the area needs a boost to attract visitors.
Yes, it's got The Regent theatre, but what else is there? And does Come Dine With Me: The Musical really qualify as 'culture' anyway?
There's a suggestion the area has become rundown, that perhaps it could do with more investment, independent shops, and speciality markets. At the very least an ice-cream van.
I'd certainly agree. There's no point calling an area a Cultural Quarter if the only 'culture' in it is someone bellowing Delilah on a Saturday night.
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Understandably, money's tight when it comes to things like this. But look at what other towns manage. Walsall, for example, has its own illuminations, albeit to dazzle visitors so they can't see what the rest of it's like. Is it beyond Hanley to do something similar?
I'm thinking a sparkling tableau of famous North Staffordshire faces, like Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor, or someone thinner if they're short of bulbs.
What the area needs is a 'wow' factor. The sort of thing you just don't get with a fried chicken takeaway and a kebab house.
There needs to be an element of spectacle. Fire-eating, sword-swallowing, unicycle machete juggling – the kind of thing Anthea Turner used to do as a matter of absolute routine on Blue Peter. I'm sure she'd quite happily do Saturday mornings once she's knocked out of Dancing On Ice.
Then there's the idea of a farmers' market. Organic food is increasingly popular. And there are people hanging round the bus station who I know would love nothing more than to use locally grown cannabis.
The thing with a cultural quarter is you need to create an atmosphere, which then feeds off itself, a bit like that smell Pointon's occasionally gives off in Cheddleton. I'd suggest wooing some really high profile nightspots to the area. I've long thought a Hanley branch of Blackpool transvestite showbar Funny Girls would do well. Although there's a chance people might confuse it with the clientele of the bingo.
On the eaterie front, what about one of those Japanese sushi restaurants that are all the rage? It's worth a try. I know for a fact that if you don't like it they'll bring you a bowl and let it nibble the dry skin off your feet.
Possibly the city needs to attract a few more street festivals. This time preferably not the march of the English Defence League.
This is a hugely multi-cultural area. Nationalities of all sorts have made their home here. Let's invite them to show us how they traditionally celebrate. Although keep the Greeks away from the crockery section in Debenhams. Maybe, when push comes to shove, the name 'Cultural Quarter' should be changed. To term one area 'cultural' suggests the others are full of people wandering round with The Wurzels on their iPod. And this isn't Telford.
You look foolish when you brand somewhere a 'cultural hub' only for it to end up on bricks.
And anyway I can't always keep up with the number of quarters in Stoke-on-Trent. I've a feeling there might be five or six.
Perhaps the best approach would be to offer discount rates for imaginative start-up businesses. It'd be a way of creating a buzz other than by Tazering drunks on a Saturday night.
It's a shame the Cultural Quarter hasn't worked out. I remember there were times when you'd see some art round there. But then kids will always daub those kind of things on walls.
All we can do is try. To get the ball rolling, I'll be snake-charming on Sunday.